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Seven lessons I learned in Abu Dhabi

30 Leaders from 10 different cities gathered together in Abu Dhabi early May 2017 for a Multi-Faith event. Every city leadership had representations of the three Abrahamic faith; Christians, Muslim, and Rabbis. The goal is to build bridges of relationships, develop trust and work towards a strategic plan that would bring peace and reconciliation to their cities. They created plans to eat meals together as families; to bring their constituencies together to break down the walls of separation and work together to see the prosperity of their city. They committed to standing up for each other in the face of religious persecution and get involved in global affairs in promoting peace among religions and to speak up against religious persecution worldwide.

This event was a collaborative effort between three organizations; Glocalnet, International Interfaith Peace Corp and the Forum for Peace. Glocalnet led by Dr. Bob Roberts and IIPC led by Imam Magid Mohamed, have been working together for years bringing Pastors and Imams together on a retreat called “Building Bridges of Faith”. This retreat has been designed to break down walls of suspicion, build a foundation of trust and create a pathway to peace and reconciliation in their cities. Forum of Peace led by Sheikh Bin Bayyah a world-renowned Muslim scholar and the United Arab Emirates sponsored this retreat in Abu Dhabi in May 2017 and invited Rabbis to join for the first time. It was a historic event; the first of it’s kind.

The leadership of each city returned with a strategic plan to execute the vision to promote peace and to work together to build stronger and more resilient communities of faith.

These are some lessons I walked away with.

 

  1. Every Religion has peacemakers. Find them and work with them for the common good. These are people of peace who wield massive influence. Influence many times is greater than power, for influence has the ability to move the masses as it frequently affects the heart not only the head.
  2. Love is stronger than hate. The force of love is much more powerful than hate. When religious leaders decide to love all people regardless of their differences and choose love over hate, it changes the environments of our cities and communities.
  3. Generosity is a powerful force. It is not a passive sentiment but a powerful action that moves the heart of others. It puts pressure on the soul of others for good. The leader of this region led by Sheikh Bin Bayyah showed great generosity toward the strangers and visitors and it warmed the heart of all who attended.
  4. If not us, then who? Just because we do not share common beliefs does not mean we do not share a common humanity. Religions of all people carry an ethos of what Rabbi Sacks calls “ethics of responsibility”. We of all people should be the first to put into action love and care for people. The best of our faiths should always move us to love and harmony not hate and wars.
  5. We are all truly created in the image of God. We are all children of Adam and Eve. Our journey through life and religions shapes us. However, if you look beneath the layers of beliefs and philosophies we developed as we have grown from childhood to adulthood, you will find a common humanity. A desire for family, peace, friendship and community. We all desire to be known and loved. We were not created to be alone therefore God made us to remove the aloneness of each other.
  6. Hospitality is a powerful practice. Eating meals together and listening to each other’s story breaks down the walls of suspicion and separation. Eating meals together is not some flippant thing we do. It is the core of what we do. Food creates an environment like no other. It values the other at its very essence as we share each other’s culture.
  7. Laughter brings people together like nothing else. When people laugh with each other it creates a bond. It speaks of a God who has given to us such a precious gift that allows us to forget for a moment, all of our differences and troubles and elevates us to a place that is transcendent. Rabbi Noach Wienbergs says, “Laughter is an opportunity to transcend limitations that bind us to see God more clearly.”

 

There is a need for a grassroots movement that will create friendship among religious leaders of all different faiths. “Dealing with religious actors is the major missing ingredient,” says Pastor Bob Roberts, President of Glocalnet and one of the leading Christian leaders promoting peace among all religions. It is time to capitalize on the extensive ties of faith leaders and develop a grassroots movement that is built on trust and respect for each other and seek to collaborate with our academic, political, and institutional efforts to bring positive change to this world.

 

Healing Power of Mourning

Romans 12:15b…Mourn with those mourn


A heaviness weighs over our nation like a dark overhanging cloud of impending storms. We see

the deep division among the racial fault lines; political mayhem invades our living rooms every

night; endless groups of people galvanized by specific hurt, wounds or certain values that are

gathering from outside the edges of societal norms. The LGBT community clamoring for their

causes; transgender issues clumsily breaking into our consciousness. Demanding a space to

exist and the right to use whatever bathroom they choose. Wars and rumors of wars fill the

airwaves. Large segments of the church of Jesus Christ deeply divided among political

affiliations choosing sides and losing their prophetic voices in the process. Yet the hope of the

world is wrapped up into the word called reconciliation. However it seems that mourning

historically precedes the journey of reconciliation. Romans 12:15b says to mourn with those

mourn. The way to heal hurts, sadness and disappointments is to lament with those who

lament. Logic and reason cannot heal emotional pain it takes empathy and emotions to get into

the world of broken people and sit with them in that pain and share it with them so they no

longer feel alone.

God identified a problem before sin, when He said in Genesis 2:18 “It was not good for man to

be alone” He did not design man to be alone and his solution was not Himself but another

human being called Eve. We were created to remove the aloneness of each other and yet we

see that we are altogether yet alone. The church that was mandated to break down all walls of

separation and including people in a community of belonging has consistently erected walls of

division; even within its own house. Mourning is not despair or whining. It is not a cry into the

darkness. It is a cry directed first to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s

deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the cry of those who are deeply disturbed by

the way things are. The path of reconciliation is rooted in the practice of mourning. Let’s step

back from our quick fixes, superficial anecdotes and take a seat by our brother and sister. Let’s

just sit with them; put aside your intellectual and logical answers and just mourn with them

awhile. Mourn with the refugees who has lost all; mourn with your gay friends, the loss of love

and family. Mourn with your African brother and sister whose history here in America did not

sail in on the Mayflower but on a ship ironically called “Jesus of Lebeck”, the first British slave

ship to land in America. Their history began with unimaginable pain and humiliation. Mourn

with the Mexican immigrant who left wife and kids to find work so he can feed them and clothe

them. As you mourn with them you will begin to mourn for yourself for in their pain you will see

your own brokenness. You will see that their pain is your pain and that sharing our pain can

become a source of healing. Then and only then are you truly ready to carry this gift of

reconciliation to the world.